Important Accomplishments Despite LePage’s Obstruction

This legislative session—while it featured no wins quite as spectacular as the budget last year—saw progressive lawmakers make small, notable advances. Remarkably, it also saw a perfect record of defeating LePage’s far-right corporate agenda of proposals based on scapegoating poor people and immigrants.

The most substantial victory came in the newly designed property tax fairness credit. Created late at night during the last budget fight as an alternative to Governor LePage’s near-elimination of the Circuit Breaker program, the original proposal meant struggling families who had previously received thousands of dollars of assistance in paying their property taxes faced a benefit cap of just $300— and a far higher threshold to even qualify for the benefits. Working with allies, MPA was able to identify $20 million of savings within the program to better target the benefits and rebuild the program back to about half of its original level. Moving $20 million out to Mainers facing hard times is something everyone who cares about a fair budget can be proud of.

As part of the supplemental budget process, MPA also worked to close corporate tax loopholes, the first time in years that this has been accomplished in Maine. This helped pay for restoration of funding to programs like Head Start. LD 1120, sponsored by Representative Adam Goode, also gained national attention.

It would have prevented corporations from hiding their income in off-shore tax havens. Although it ultimately fell victim to the governor’s veto, it will likely pass easily next year if a new governor is in office.

On the environmental front, both funding for solar energy and local “food hubs” passed initially but also failed to garner enough support to override LePage’s veto. The solar energy rebate bill would have restored a solar funding program that LePage let lapse when he took office. The local food hubs bill would have provided infrastructure to aggregate and minimally process locally grown Maine foods, a key step to allow farmers to gain access to institutional purchasers (like schools) and bigger markets. Both of these bills addressed shocking failures by the state to take full advantage of Maine’s resources.

Germany, the world’s leading producer of solar energy, actually gets less sun than Maine, proving that the state can lead in solar production. Unfortunately, Maine actually has about ten times fewer solar energy jobs per capita than Massachusetts, due to a failure to invest in clean energy.

On the food front, Maine is actually the largest proportional importer of food in all 50 states, despite a rich agricultural tradition and abundant natural resources. Tackling both of these problems will likely require electing a governor willing

to step up and take the lead on local food, jobs and the environment.

MPA and ally organizations helped beat back every single one of the Governor’s scapegoating, anti-poor people, anti- public assistance bills. This effort involved having to call out some close legislative allies (and even making some strategic alliances with Republicans) but in the end the effort succeeded. Every single special corporate tax break that was proposed was also beaten back this

session, including a last-minute bill to require the state to pay about 20% of the budget for any film produced in Maine.

In other words, although the failure to expand Medicaid was heartbreaking, Maine otherwise saw as much progress as could be expected with a completely intransigent Governor. With a great deal of pent up energy for progress, big things may be possible in 2015, depending on the results of November’s election.